Virtual Campus at Sun

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-02-28 Print this article Print

Sun's own "immersive" project is called MPK20. The company's campus in Menlo Park, Calif., has 19 buildings, MPK1 through MPK19. MPK20 is actually a virtual building, no bricks and mortar. Sun employees logged in to this virtual world come to work in the morning by guiding their avatars through the "front door," then head into their "cubes" to check e-mail. Later, they may visit the "water cooler" and talk to colleagues.

They can work, talk to each other, go to meetings, go out for a walk-do anything an employee regularly does, only it's on a screen.

"If we can engage kids early on in this whole new way to learn, we've got an advantage," McNealy said. "We need to get the educational community fully behind this, plus get other companies and organizations involved, for this to start getting traction. It can really work. We need to do something about our education conventions; the old ones aren't working."

There are about 200 alpha users in the Wonderland program now testing it in various ways.

"Sun has the right technology, and we see this as an exponentially growing sector over the next several years," said alpha user Warren Sheaffer, chairman of the computer science department at Saint Paul College, in St. Paul, Minn. "And it's all open source, so we can open it up and tear it apart to build our own curriculum around it."

McNealy also touched on another idea: That all colleges some day will post  their entire curricula online, allowing anybody in the world to attend for no cost -- then awarding diplomas to a top percentage of students who completed the coursework.

He also suggested that these colleges and  universities -- of which some endowments are growing exponentially [such as Stanford, Harvard, and other private schools] -- could make their money at later dates from the companies that hire their graduates.

"If they've had the use of a good employee for, say, five years, somebody who's helped them do good business and make money, then I'll bet they'll consider it," McNealy said.

School officials in the audience, who came from as far away as New Zealand, Eastern Europe and Russia, seemed enthused by McNealy's presentation.

A question to McNealy came from the audience: "This is something that should be a campaign issue, the idea of this new [open source] education. Have you taken this to any of the [presidential] campaigns?"

McNealy acted sheepish as he delivered his answer. "Well, I'm a little intimidated about going to the Obama and Clinton people," he said. "I'm afraid they'll see me as just another capitalist Republican CEO trying to make more money for his company. I do have an appointment with McCain's education chief next week.

"The only one I've talked to about this so far is Mitt Romney, and that's not going to do us much good at this point."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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